Twofish's Blog

December 15, 2006

The word for today is ….

Filed under: academia, china, iraq, politics, Relationships, wikipedia — twofish @ 10:59 pm

Limerence…  A word made up by psychiatrist Dorothy Tennov describing an emotional state most people call love.  The one thing that Tennov doesn’t mention but I think it would be possible to extend to concept of limerence not only to people but also to companies, nations, groups, ideas, and software programs.

The other word that I’ve used a few times is passion

Passion…  This is an interesting word because the root of passion is suffering for a higher cause, and I think that passion and limerence go together.   The concept of passion is important in international relations because how a dispute turns out often depends on how much a party is willing to suffer for its goals.

December 11, 2006

Protected: Utterly implausible

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

July 31, 2006

Protected: Back to MIT and haunted by some painful memories of the night I left

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

July 30, 2006

On kids and national identity….

Filed under: china, Relationships, taiwan — twofish @ 10:43 am

Right now my kids are in Taiwan right now, and the plan is that they family will spend summers there, and I hope to use Taiwan as a base of operations to make trips to Shanghai, and to see relatives in Zhejiang and Anhui.  Once direct flights start between Taiwan and the Mainland, everything is going to change.

One implication of this is that they are going to have multiple national identities.  They are going to think of being “American” or “Chinese” in much the same way people think of being “Texan” or “Shanghaiese”.  Since they are going to be travelling between the United States, Taiwan, and mainland China so much, no one is going to have an exclusive claim on their “national identity.”  (This includes both “ethnic” identity and “political” identity since my kids will have both United States passports and Republic of China passports.)

The problem I’ve always had with the notion of “Taiwan independence” and the problem it is going to have with globalization, is that the ideology of Taiwan independence makes these multiple identities impossible, and suggests that if you do have multiple identities then there is something wrong with you.  It’s not the “you are Taiwanese” part that has bothered me, it is the “you are not-Chinese” part.

One way of handling this is by attempting a separation between “culture” and “politics.”  You are political American but culturally Chinese.  The Singaporeans came up with that idea and it seems to work well in Singapore and Malaysia, but it doesn’t work well in my situation.  I do want my children to be full participants in the political life of the United States, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Again this runs against “Taiwanese independence” ideology, which states that only people living on Taiwan have a legitimate right to determine the political destiny of Taiwan.

This again flies in the face of global reality, and Chen Shui-Bian hit this problem earlier this year.  The problem is that a TI supporter tells an American with no particular connection to Taiwan that they do not have the right to influence Taiwan’s internal affairs, and then the American looks at him and says “wait a moment, if Taiwan’s domestic problems cause a major political crisis, isn’t it the Seventh Fleet that will have to bail Taiwan out, and isn’t it American sons and daugthers that will risk being shot at.”  At that point the idea that only Taiwanese have the right to determine Taiwan’s political future becomes untenable.

I don’t think that the “nation-state” is becoming obsolete, but I do think the whole notion of “exclusive national identities” is going to disappear pretty quickly in a generation or two.  I don’t think that my kids are going to be the only “transnationals” out there, and it wouldn’t surprise me that if by 2050, people think that you are odd if you *aren’t* a dual national.

July 26, 2006

Becoming a Ph.D.

Communication is difficult when you are talking to people with different backgrounds.

For example, what does being a Ph.D. mean?  People aren’t Ph.D.’s assume that it’s just a like a masters or undergraduate degree, where you go through the factory assembly line and come out at the other end with a piece of paper that gets you some money and prizes.

But that’s not the case.  You don’t *get* a Ph.D., you *become* a Ph.D.  If you have a Ph.D., it’s not a statement about a piece of paper or certification, it’s a statement about who you are, what you have seen, and how you look at the world.  The certification really doesn’t matter much.  My degree is almost useless as a ticket for money and prizes, but it is a statement about who I am and what I’ve seen.  If you want to erase my degree, go ahead, I don’t think it matters that much.

Being a Ph.D. affects all of my relationships.  It affected who I married, and what my children are like.  I can’t separate my “work life” or my “school life” from my “personal life.”  As you can see, being a Ph.D. affects my feeling toward other people, and it’s part of my marriage.  My wife is a Ph.D. candidate in early childhood education.  An essential part of our marriage involves professional collaboration and respect.  I learn about educational theory from her.  She uses me as a peer briefer to look over her data.  We’ve created more together than children, we’ve created some new insights as to how the world works.  (See next year when her dissertation comes out.)  The professional collaboration I have with my wife is part of our love, it’s part of our marriage, it’s part of how we are, and it’s something that people on the outside of academia don’t quite understand.

Let me give you an example of how bizarre my world might seem to someone who isn’t living in it.  Right now I’m studying the dynamics of volatility smiles.  I’m getting any grades or certifications from this.  I’m not taking any formal courses.  I’m just reading and learning.  Now the stuff I’m reading is also stuff that MFE’s can read, but suppose some were to tell me that the obstensible purpose for what I’m reading is “useless.”  In other words, someone tells me that I’m destined not to have a job on Wall Street.

I….  wouldn’t…. care……

If it turns out that it is *impossible* for me to make any money on what I’m studying.  I’d still study it about as hard.  Because it is interesting.  It’s cool math.  It challenges my mind.  It makes me a better person when I understand how foreign exchange volatility smiles work.  And in my life, the important thing isn’t destination, it’s the journey.  When I think I understand something, my first reaction is to go and find something new that I don’t understand.  When I seem to have mastered a skill, I go and find something I’m incompetent at.
None of that has anything to do with whether or not I become a quant or not, and it’s really hard to explain to headhunters and HR people.

Protected: Now or never….

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Protected: It’s just professional…..

Filed under: academia, Career, personal, Relationships — twofish @ 9:36 am

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

July 25, 2006

Protected: Getting it wrong…..

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Blog at